National Trust members have an opportunity to help ban ‘trail hunting’ on NT land thanks to a motion submitted to the charity’s AGM. This page explains what is happening, why the League supports the motion, and how members can place their vote.


Read our response to the National Trust's arguments against banning trail hunting

Read our acting CEO’s blog on why a vote against trail hunting could be vital

Hunting on National Trust land

A group of members submitted the motion, with the support of the League, after realising that trail hunts are licensed to hunt on National Trust properties around the country. Many people have been shocked to learn that illegal hunting is taking place on NT land.

The UK’s third largest membership organisation and second largest land owner currently issues licences to a number of hunts (79 were issued in 2016) on some of its estates. These licences are generally for ‘trail hunting’, which the Trust states is contain conditions designed to protect fauna and flora but it would seem the National Trust do not take any enforcement action for breaches of licence conditions unless there has been a police investigation and a conviction.

The League believes the evidence clearly shows that hunting activities on National Trust land are cruel, illegal, unauthorised and dangerous to the public, as well as damaging to Sites of Scientific Interest and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Why have the National Trust licensed hunting?

Hunting wild animals like deer, hares and foxes with dogs for sport is illegal under the terms of the Hunting Act 2004, except where an exemption applies. When the ban came in, hunts created the activity of ‘trail hunting’, which they claimed involved following a scent-based trail (for example fox urine).

Evidence suggests that trail hunting (not to be confused with drag hunting) is not a genuine sport, but in fact a cover for illegal hunting. Our analysis was done looking at over 4,000 hunt monitoring reports from different organisations (covering the majority of hunts in England and Wales). We’ve found that since 2005, only on an average of around 0.04% of occasions did monitors believe they may have witnessed a genuine trail hunting event, rather than a fake one.

We therefore believe that illegal hunting is taking place on National Trust land on regular basis.

Other ways hunts kill animals on National Trust land

Trail hunting is not the only excuse that hunts use to access National Trust land. Other ways include:

'Exempt stag hunting'

Hunts can claim various ‘exemption’ excuses that the law allows as their purpose for being on National Trust land – and it’s stags that are feeling the effects the most. The defiant attitude of stag hunts combined with the existence of weak exemptions in the Hunting Act 2004 has created an effective loophole which desperately needs closing. Too many opportunities to falsely claim an exempt hunt is undoubtedly causing suffering to hundreds of deer every year.

Exhausted stag recovering on League Against Cruel Sports Baronsdown Sanctuary with the sanctuarys resident deer

‘Exercising the hounds'

Citing that hounds need exercise, hunts often let full packs of hounds loose in the countryside which can cause all kinds of disturbance to the local wildlife as well as damage to natural ecosystems. The League regularly receives reports of unsupervised hounds entering protected natural reserves – endangering the habitats of foxes, hares and other animals. We’ve also received reports of hunts interfering with badger setts - which is illegal, because badgers are a protected species.

Unopposed tresspassing

The Quantock Hills in Somerset is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), with parts owned and managed by the National Trust. The Quantock Staghounds Hunt, like all the other stag hunts, was banned from hunting with dogs on National Trust land in 1997, so is not permitted to carry out actual stag hunting on its land.

The League Against Cruel Sports has evidence that the Quantock Staghounds Hunt has repeatedly engaged in stag hunting, trespassing onto National Trust land without a licence, driving hunt quad bikes and other vehicles on a restricted byway and footpaths used regularly by the public (including children) and across protected moorland, and has discharged firearms to kill deer on National Trust land, which is open to the public.

On one occasion, a National Trust vehicle passed along a restricted byway as hunt vehicles were being driven illegally in the opposite direction but there was no intervention. The evidence shows that National Trust estate staff may be aware of what is going on but take no action to stop it.

Hunt supporters vehicles in National Trust land

It's time to take action

This year (2017) a group of National Trust members, supported by the League, have successfully submitted a motion which will be voted on at the Trust’s AGM in October. If passed, the motion will prevent hunts from legally accessing large amounts of land across England and Wales.

How to vote for a National Trust motion

National Trust members who wish to vote for a resolution on the agenda at the charity’s AGM, can do so online, by post, or in person at the AGM, which takes place on Saturday 21st October. Those not attending can place their vote at any time after receiving their voting forms.

The League believes that banning trail hunting, exempt hunting and hound exercise on National Trust land will mark the beginning of the end for trail hunting, which we believe is responsible for the disturbance and deaths of thousands of animals across the country.

We also believe that allowing trail hunting to continue, even with the Trust’s suggested amendments to licensing conditions, would fail to stop the hunts from hunting illegally.

If you agree with our assessment, please see the instructions below as to how to place your vote, which includes naming a proxy who will cast your vote in support of the resolution. Nominate William Morton, as a proxy. He can then cast your votes in support of the resolution for the cessation of trail hunting, exempt hunting and hound exercise. William Morton is a National Trust member who is also a member of the League, and who has volunteered to be used as a *proxy by supporters that cannot attend the AGM.

To vote online

  1. Go to the voting website.
  2. Log in by entering your name, surname, membership number & post code.
  3. Click the AGM resolution button.
  4. Nominate William Morton, as a proxy. He can then use your votes to support the resolution for the cessation of trail hunting, exempt hunting and hound exercise.
  5. Click the 'Next Page' button.
  6. Review your choices, then click 'Submit'.

To vote using postal forms

  1. Fill in your personal details (name, surname, membership number, post code & signature).
  2. Appoint William Morton as a proxy. He can then use your votes to support the resolution for the cessation of trail hunting, exempt hunting and hound exercise. 
  3. Send your vote in the post to 'Freepost ERS'.

Online votes & postal votes must both be received by the Trust by 23:59 on Friday 13th October 2017.

*William will abstain in the votes on other motions unless you use your voting form to instruct him otherwise.

What else can I do?

Whether you’re a member or not, there’s still plenty you can do:

  • Share this page with your family and friends – spread the word!
  • Do you live near a National Trust property? Take part in our campaign actions across the England and Wales - a briefing sheet will be provided giving you all the information you need, as well as a campaign pack containing leaflets and other materials to help get the message across. Contact us for more details.


Your actions can stop hunting being allowed on National Trust land.